A lot of my patients find eating in front of other people especially painful to do. Some need to know exactly what's in their food and drink and how many calories each piece of food has. But these are sensitive issues and the best you can do is to talk calmly and non-judgmentally to your friend or family member. It's not their fault, they are ill - many people think anorexia is a choice. It is not.
The term 'Drunkorexia' is relatively new, but the condition is not. Drunkorexia is a combination of alcoholism and anorexia or bulimia. Usually, a person suffering from drunkorexia will deprive himself or herself of food during the day, in an attempt to keep calories under control when he or she goes drinking later.
So here we are in Mental Health Week, a week created to break down stigma towards mental health and to create better understanding of the issue. The trick though is that people need to realise it's not a disease. It's not some trauma like cancer seemingly picking people at malicious whim. Mental health is something that is in all of us. For some it engulfs us, and for some it doesn't.
It wasn't just a case of wanting to be thinner; eating disorders, pretty quickly, cause chemical imbalances that bring on depression, and eventually I felt like I was not worth feeding. Lying awake at night with heart palpitations, I knew what I was doing was hurting me, but gradually, my worth became linked, in my eyes, solely to my weight.
For the past five years I've been campaigning and raising awareness of men with eating disorders with an aim to debunk the myth that eating disorders is a 'female problem.' Significant advances in awareness have been made in this short space of time to highlight the inequalities male sufferers face, but there's still a long way to go
Eating disorders are complex conditions which start for a variety of reasons and their impact stretches way beyond weight-loss or weight-gain and Thomas told me that his eating disorder has left him with permanent oesophageal acid reflux, stomach ulcers, chronic stomach pains, mouth ulcers, severely impaired peristaltic motion, damage to teeth, blocked tear ducts, scars on knuckles, sore throats, hair loss and pale complexion.
We know that in our society there is huge cultural pressure on young people and in particular girls to be skinny, waif like and attain impossible barbie like body shapes. The gendered link between media pressure and eating disorders is inescapable. But frustratingly just as women from ethnic minorities are absent from everyday media appearances, the fact that they too are also subjected to the same cultural pressures and resultant illnesses, is also absent.
It's easy to point the finger at GPs for not picking up on the signs but are they really to blame? Currently, doctors have no training on eating disorders as part of their seven-year degree. They have approximately 10 minutes - if that - with each patient and hardly sufficient to investigate a patient presenting the symptoms.
Students are known for their bad eating habits; baked beans have become a beacon for the university experience. It's not surprising really - we don't have nine to five schedules, or lunch breaks, or regular wages... We only have ourselves to decide that cereal for the third time in a day is a bad decision, instead of a detox. Which makes it dangerously easy for people to fall through the gaps. In the student culture of make do and make pasta, again, eating disorders can be hard to spot.
In 2012, I decided that due to a number of significant events going on in my life it was time to try and continue treatment again. Despite my initial referral taking place in December 2012, I didn't see anyone till October 2013. When I did, I was told by the NHS mental health trust that I wasn't ill enough to meet their very strict criteria.
The dangers of the internet may be largely understood but due to the lack of evidence, it's a questionable claim to suggest that social media sites are the so called 'cause?' Instead of trying to point the finger it's better to focus our attention on understanding why young sufferers are developing eating disorders in the first place.
Despite having an eating disorder I'd never heard of bulimia, let alone knew it was a mental illness. Most days I would run out of lessons or avoid lessons completely to escape the torment of bullies. I'd hide in the boys toilets and lock myself in a cubicle as it was the only place where I couldn't be found.